My First Homeschool Planning Attempts
In my early years as a home educator I liked to do my homeschool planning with lots of details and colour coded timetables. But after a few months, I’d be back at the computer revising my plans. I felt I’d failed. However as each year closed, and I looked back at what I had actually done, I realised that I had made progress. Probably not as much as I had hoped but still – it was progress. I never gave up planning just because I didn’t achieve everything I had hoped, instead I became a more realistic planner. I looked at the rhythm of my homeschool and as I understood my students needs and myself as a teacher I worked with what I knew.
Curriculum Planning Is Fun For Some But Maybe Not You?
Homeschool planning is fun for some people (I must admit I do like it) but for others it’s a great headache. But whether you like it or not homeschool curriculum planning is required when you get registered to homeschool. And even though the prescriptive nature of the Australian Curriculum and other state syllabi can feel very restrictive, homeschool planning can actually be quite liberating and stress relieving. Having a plan is like a compass for your homeschool year. It helps you set a course (or buy one) and it gives you a destination for your studies.
Some of us are natural planners and some of us are brilliant at the spontaneous. For me the plans weren’t the issue, it was my stamina to stay focused and motivated. And one of my downfalls in planning is that I never planned for the spontaneous. My plans were always hopeful that every day would be an interruption free good day and since those kind of days were the exception rather than the rule my optimism became my downfall.
Ten Homeschool Planning Tips
There is a knack to homeschool planning and in some ways it’s very much like putting a puzzle together. Here are a few tips that I have learnt that make planning realistic but comprehensive:
- Look at curriculum planning as a whole. Let all your subjects meld. Tie in your literature studies with all your subject.
- Use a teaching philosophy as your base for preparing your course of study rather than the newest curriculum out. This will tend to make your plans a lot more cohesive. For me it was always the Charlotte Mason Method.
- When I surveyed a group of homeschool mums nearly all of us said we only homeschooled four days per week. Day 5 was for all those out of home events that still were ‘educational’ but not necessarily academic. Plan for 3 days a week for Kindergarten to Year 2 and 4 days a week for Year 3 to Year 6. In high school many of us moved to a five day week because our teens were becoming more independent. Here is a realistic guide to homeschooling hours.
- Make it simple. Detailed lesson plans and specific time slots often make you feel stressed because you feel like you didn’t complete the lesson or you are running behind. And they are not required when applying for registration.
- Go with your heart. This may sound like a funny thing to say but it is actually quite an intuitive method. So often we have a gut feeling about how we want to teach and this can be right on target. But it may also be challenging but ultimately it will give you a greater sense of purpose and motivation when you believe in the way you are teaching
- Don’t try to do too much in your academic year. With so many good options it is tempting to try to squeeze too much into your curriculum. That usually leads to burnout. Be realistic with what you can actually achieve.
- Don’t attempt curriculum before your children are ready. I’ve made this mistake many times when my kids were little. I bought a history and science curriculum that was really high school level for my kids to use in primary. Consequently the content was mostly inappropriate for my children and I wasted my money.
- Don’t buy too much. My weakness is books. I have many that I bought to read to my children that are still sitting on the bookshelf. Over the past two years I’ve been going to my bookshelf FIRST for my read-alouds instead of the bookshops.
- Don’t be tempted to throw out something that works just because something else is newer or prettier. No curriculum is a perfect fit and you will always find that certain aspects don’t work. However, chopping and changing all the time can slow down progress in a subject. With one child I wasted a year changing math programs three times whilst looking for a good fit. In the end I went back to my original resource realising that the reason she was struggling was more about her and not the curriculum.
- Don’t ignore the failures that happened before. If you are finding aspects of your homeschool aren’t working such as: routine, time allocation, a particular curriculum, or your homeschool set up –examine them closely and see what improvements you can make. Remember the famous quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Start Writing Out Your Plan.
You will need to make some decisions on what curriculum you want to use.
If you are Australian and using resources with lots of American content, the main thing you need to remember is that you need Australian content added to your curriculum.
Write out a plan for each student referring to each subject. It can be as simple as what textbook you might be using or what book you plan on teaching. If it’s your first time, only plan for one year. You do not need to follow your worked out plan exactly. It is your starting point.
You will find as you homeschool your curriculum planning will change as you work out the needs of your homeschool students. With time you will also become a more confident planner.
Real Homeschool Planning Examples
Here are some plans I have done in the past. The styles have changed and the resources have changed as I’ve become more confident.
Decide on Your Subjects
Firstly work out what subjects you plan on teaching. For example, the basic subjects for primary according to the Australian Curriculum are:
- Science and Technology
- Human Society and its Environment (includes history, geography and civics)
- Creative and Practical Arts (includes art, drama, dancing and music)
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education – PDHPE (includes health information and sport).
In Year 7 to 10 English, Science, Math, History and Geography are compulsory but other subjects are electives:
- Creative and Practical Arts
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE)
- Foreign Language (LOTE)
- Design and Technology
You can rotate these subjects around during the year but you need to be doing three extra subjects each year. You may have other subjects you want to include like Bible lessons, add these to your list.
Requirements Differ In Each State And Territory
If there are state requirements you need to comply with, work out what they are. Here are some links that will help Australian homeschoolers.
Make a Student Planning Page for Each Subject
List your subjects and then begin filling in the resources that you plan on using for these subjects. Put all the children under one subject during this phase. Why? I think it helps you find crossover resources and books that can be used for multiple aged children.
Maths is probably the only subject that needs a separate curriculum for each child. In the early years science can often be grouped together.
English can have some crossover content (especially with read alouds) but the mechanics of writing will vary depending on the age and skills of your children.
Review The Plan Before You Buy
Before you purchase any curriculum get some advice from other homeschoolers. Go to homeschool forums and Cathy Duffy’s Top Picks to read reviews.
More Homeschool Planning Help
Like I said, I like planning but it didn’t mean I wanted to do everything from scratch. I was happy when I found a book or resource that fitted in with my philosophy and plans. So don’t be afraid to use curriculum if it fits in with your philosophy of education.
If you are looking for a complete package using Charlotte Mason then have a look at our My Homeschool courses.
Final Tips For Navigating The Curriculum Labyrinth
Most new home educators don’t know where to look and they can get bogged down in their search. There is no perfect curriculum but some are definitely better and more suited to homeschooling than others.
Homeschool planning is where many homeschoolers become unstuck and give up the idea of planning their own curriculum.
“It’s all too hard!”, they lament.
I won’t mince words; it does require effort and commitment to sift through the options but don’t try to plan the perfect curriculum on your first attempt. Just get started and only try to plan one year and tweak it as you go. Your plans can be flexible. Most of us have made mistakes and wasted money in our first years of planning. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and take the pressure off yourself.
For new homeschoolers I suggest starting with a guide that will help you navigate the requirements of your state:
- The Australian Curriculum
- American Homeschool Curriculum Guides, Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, Living Books Curriculum, Sonlight, Bob Jones University and Abeka
- My Homeschool also has a pre done curriculum where most of the planning is done for you. They also have a free trial with course outlines showing how they have adapted their curriculum to the Australian Curriculum.
Other ideas include:
- Search the web with clear subject goals in mind. Search using grades as well.
- Ask friends for their suggestions and look at samples when possible.
After you have looked for a while and your head is swimming, STOP! And start again another day.